Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday

For the last three or four years, part of my observance of Good Friday has included attending the noonday service at an Episcopal Church in our area, where the main feature has been their choir’s performance (in English) of one of J.S. Bach’s settings of the Gospel Passion narratives (minus the solo arias). This year, the choir performed Bach’s Passion According to St. Matthew.

I think Bach’s Passions are rich musical and spiritual experiences. The majority of the text is taken from the Gospel narrative with verses from chorales (hymns that would have been familiar to Bach’s original audience) inserted periodically throughout the work. I easily found myself meditating on what my Savior suffered for “us sinners and our salvation”.

There was one chorale verse, in particular, which stood out in my mind, and caused me to reflect on my own sin:

’Tis I who should, repenting, in torture unrelenting, endure the pains of Hell. The bands with which they bound Thee, and all wrongs around Thee, were by my soul deserved full well.

Jesus said, “I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:15). It was for those who trust in Him, that Christ died. He didn’t deserve execution, but the “torture” and “pains of Hell…were by my soul deserved full well.” That why I have to wonder how it is that I can continue to sin against God? Does Christ’s suffering and death mean nothing to me? Sometimes, I wish the old Holiness Methodist doctrine of “entire sanctification” (or “sinless perfection”) was true! I wish it was somehow possible to eradicate the sin nature. But, unfortunately, it’s not possible. Unfortunately, I sin because sin is “in me that is, in my flesh” (Romans 7:18).

“For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me” (Romans 7:18-20).

With Paul, I cry, “O wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:24 KJV), and my heart is filled with shame.

However, upon further reflection, my heart is also filled with grateful rejoicing, because every sin I commit is one for which Jesus has already died. I’m reminded that God already knew about all the sins you or I would commit when He determined to send Jesus to die in our place. I’m reminded that Jesus died not only for sins past and present, but He also died for sins yet to be committed. The blood Jesus shed almost 2,000 years ago made atonement for sins I commit today. Thankfully, God is not the god of the “Open Theists”—one who has no idea what the future holds. Absolutely not!

“I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isaiah 46:9-10).

God knows all things. Ephesians 1:4 records that “[the Father] chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world…” We who trust in Christ do so because God declared “from the beginning” that we would be His. To accomplish our salvation, the guilt of every sin that we would ever commit was laid on Jesus. Jesus drank from the cup of God’s wrath against sin and, as C.J. Mahaney wrote, left nothing in that cup for His people to drink—He drank it all!1 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

“So, admit you’re the worst sinner you know. Admit you’re unworthy and deserve to be condemned. But don’t stop there! Move on to rejoicing in the Savior who came to save the worst of sinners. Lay down the luggage of condemnation and kneel down in worship at the feet of Him who bore your sins.”2

Mark Lauterbach provides some more reflection on what Good Friday is all about, right here.

1C.J. Mahaney, Christ Our Mediator: Finding Passion at the Cross (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publisher, Inc., 2004), p. 57.

2C.J. Mahaney, The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, Inc., 2002), p. 44

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